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There are a number of things you can do to keep your Mac running quickly and smoothly and also prevent loss of data. I suggest that you make a schedule of maintenance that you follow. How many different applications you use, how often you use them and the importance of the information generated will dictate how often you need to do these chores.

I would suggest for those who use quite a number of applications and/or use their machine over 20 hours a week that a monthly run of Disk First Aid and a Desktop rebuild would be sufficient. For those who (or whose children) run high memory games or try many applications downloaded from the internet, it would be advisable to do this weekly. If all you do is work with a word processor and use your email then less frequently will suffice.

As for backing up your data, it is a matter of how often you edit or create files and how important that information is to you. A weekly backup for most of us is probably sufficient but if your data is critical, then a daily backup might be necessary. It is likely that different data will require a different schedule. The question to ask is "How much information can I afford to lose and have to recreate?" My Quicken files I can recreate a couple of weeks worth of entries in a short time. However, changes to my web site and writings would be very difficult to recreate, even a day's worth. How ever you decide to do it be sure to BACK UP REGULARLY!!!

One other thing should be said here also. SAVE YOUR WORK REGULARLY!!! Some programs have a "timed save" option. Use them and if a program doesn't, get into the habit of saving in short intervals.


Disk First Aid

Disk First Aid (DFA) is your first line of defense when things are not well and also as preventive maintenance. You will find DFA in the Utilities folder on your hard drive. You should restart with all extensions turned off (restart holding the shift key down until you see the opening splash screen) or start from a disk other than the one you want to check (a bootable removable disk like the Mac OS system disk or secondary volume). Older versions of DFA can not repair the startup disk or disk it was launched from.

Once you start DFA you will see a screen similar to this. You may only see a single icon and that is because I have my iMac partitioned into 6 volumes.

Select the drive you would like to check and click on the “Verify” button. DFA will do a series of checks of the selected drive.

If DFA finds any problems you will be alerted. Click on the “Repair” button and DFA will attempt to repair the problem. Most often it is capable of repairing any errors it finds.

"Rebuilding the Desktop"

If you are experiencing odd behaviors (Generic icons, finder is particularly slow, slow startups, etc.) you should rebuild the desktop database files. There are a couple of ways to do this.

THE OS way, the easiest but not really the best:

1. Run Disk First Aid and repair any errors.

2. Go to your "Extensions Manager" in Control Panels and choose the "Base" OS set for the OS you are running.

3. Choose restart, and once you hear the start-up chime hold down both the Apple (command) and Option keys until you see the dialog box asking if you are sure you want to rebuild, choose OK.

MY Way, and I'm in the majority on this one:

1. If you don't already have the Freeware program "Trash Desktop", go get it at

2. Run Disk First Aid.

3. Drag Trash Desktop to your launcher or put an alias on the desktop.

4. Go to your "Extensions Manager" in Control Panels and choose the "Base" OS set you are running. Choose Restart.

5. Drag your hard drive icon over the Trash Desktop icon.

6. In your Preferences folder drag "Finder Preferences" to the trash (HD:System Folder:Preferences).

7. Go to your "Extensions Manager" in Control Panels and choose the set you usually run. Choose Restart.

Backing Up

Computers, like all other machinery, sometimes go on the blink. Your Mac is no different. There is nothing quite as disheartening as losing files due to corruption or serious hard drive problems. Backing up your data is vital and you should create a schedule which you adhere to. I suggest a weekly back up at minimum.

One of the most difficult tasks is to decide what to back up and where to find it. Each program will save it's documents to a default folder, usually in the program folder. You can choose another folder. I would suggest that you choose the "Documents" folder which was installed with your OS. You can easily create many nested folders there to organize your documents. This way most of your documents will be in one place and easily backed up. You can then simply just copy this "Documents" folder to a removable disk or another drive. You can change the default folder for all applications to the "Documents" folder by changing the preference in the General Controls panel.

You may have to or choose to back up the nested folders separately depending on their size. I do keep my projects backed up separately and use a shareware program "Simple Back Up" which I describe here.


There are other preventative measures which you can take to help keep things running smoothly.

When ever you install a new program, first Go to your "Extensions Manager" in Control Panels and choose the "Base" OS set for the OS you are running and restart. After installation restart using the extension set you usually use and use the new program and a few others to verify that there are no conflicts between programs. If you find you don't want to keep the program use the uninstaller, if the program has one. It usually will be found in the "Custom Installation" option of the installer, if it is not, there ought to be an installer log created by the program telling you what files were installed where. Be sure to delete all the files the program installed, especially any control panels or extensions and preference files.

Another source of problems that users experience is having multiple copies of a program. They may be the same or different versions. When you update a program or reinstall it be sure that the old program is deleted. Many updaters do this for you but not all. Also be sure to update any of the aliases that you use to launch that program. If you are having trouble with a program do a search for it with Sherlock to be sure that only one exists. I have found that this happens quite often with browsers and email programs and can cause great confusion to both you and the program.

Shut down your Mac properly. Using the Shut Down command from the Special Menu or the by using power key, choosing Shut Down from the dialog box which appears. I prefer to shut my Mac down at night so that each morning I start with a fresh system minimizing the possibility of continuing with yesterday's possible conflicts.


So far I have only disscussed those tools that you already have or are free to use. There are however other commercial products which do more complete tests of your system. The one suggestion I would like to stress is not to have these programs run automatically but rather scan your drives regularly by booting from the utility's CD.





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 made with a mac

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